Friday, 10 August 2018

The Darling Buds of May - H E Bates

Perfect for an afternoon in the garden, or by the riverside, on the beach.  But for me this was a "perfick" summer read, and at only 137 pages was not a struggle to finish. I think it may have been back in the 1980s that this was made into a TV series - where Catherine Zeta Jones first makes an early appearance;  as the flawless Marriette - eldest daughter of Pop and Ma Larkin.

Pop Larkin leads a life of pure delight (or as he would say, perfick) with Ma Larkin and quite a lot of children.  The time?  middle 1950s.  The place?  the South of England.  Pop is a junk dealer (scrap metal, second hand vehicles, things other people want to discard) and has made a healthy living out of it.  Well, you have to, don't you, with this many mouths to feed - and don't they all eat?!!  Ma is a great cook, and she cooks huge amounts of food for family meals including the daily full English breakfasts.  After all, if it's Sunday lunch and you are going to kill a goose for a roast, why not two?  You may be lucky and have a little bit of leftovers for tomorrow - that is if someone doesn't raid the larder for supper.  And drink?!  Pop must have a cast iron liver, that's all I'm saying.

When Cedric Charlton arrives one afternoon to talk about Pop's tax return, it seems that Pop doesn't do tax returns, he never earns enough to pay tax (why, all those kids with a healthy appetite, animals to feed, the truck to put petrol in;  why, some weeks he has nothing in his pocket at all!).  So how can he be persuaded to fill in his tax  return?  With a great deal of difficulty.

Here is a description of a life that no longer exists, and probably we are all the poorer for that.  It's a bit non-PC in places too, but remember that this was first published in 1958.  This is the first of five books Bates wrote about the Larkin family - all short, but all charming; the tale of a near-illiterate man and his family.

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